Dengler Domain: North Tama Swing Show

Playing football, basketball, track, and baseball and the relative success these teams saw due mostly to my teammates and a little credit due to me, taught me how to work as a team to achieve a common goal and other life experiences. Despite these successes on the gridiron, court, track, and field, one North Tama tradition played a bigger role in shaping my future — the North Tama Swing Show.

Swing Show was more than comedic sketches with song and dance in between, but the comedy was my jam. When attending these performances in elementary school, the likes of Mark Foster, Zach Walker, and others played an outsized role on my love of comedy. While I watched Saturday Night Live growing up, this was the first time in my life where I could see sketches acted out in front of a live audience.

One of my crowning achievements in high school was being elected in consecutive years to serve as the band and chorus president. Did I care what music we would play or sing? Absolutely not. I solely wanted to be president because the presidents hosted swing show, meaning more time for my star to shine. By hosting swing show, it further developed my love for performing.

Most sketches were replays of sketches performed on SNL or from other walks of life. One year I wrote my own sketch which was accepted into the show. It was about two “crocodile hunters” examining the wild world of women. The premise sounds terrible, but I swear it worked or at least I tell myself it went over well. Either way, it helped foster my love of writing sketch and stand-up comedy.

At the time I never realized the opportunity for this one show performed twice a year was going to impact my life, but it probably shaped who I would become and want to be more than any other academic, athletic, or activity I participated in at North Tama. One of the guiding forces behind the North Tama Swing Show during my time and before and after me is the K-12 vocal music teacher, Terry Shay. While I was never his favorite student — 8 am chorus was just too early for high school Sean Dengler and, unsurprisingly, it is still too early for me now — my memories of nervously auditioning in front of him and other judges and then being selected to perform on the swing show in various ways are happy ones. Due to him and others giving me a chance to perform and succeed allowed me to believe in myself and see comedy stage performance as something I could do well at in the future.

I am not the only one who had this feeling or at least had the confidence from performing at Swing Show lead to other successes in life. His presence allowed a lot of North Tama alums to enjoy the stage and take lessons from it to use in other parts of their lives. My memories of the North Tama Swing Show are memorable ones, and I know Mr. Shay’s presence will be missed following his retirement at the end of this school year. His last two swing shows will be at 7 p.m. on March 9 and 10. While there have been other chorus and band directors through the years who have also played an important role in the Swing Show’s success, I owe my love of performing and comedy to the time of North Tama Swing Show under the helm of Mr. Shay. Thank you for your service and thank you for giving me the opportunity to perform at the North Tama Swing Show.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.